Drinking a cup of coffee is a classic way to start the day or enjoy an afternoon pick-me-up. Plus, there are potential health benefits to drinking coffee, including a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer's and other diseases, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
For many people, coffee is a non-negotiable, but the risk is sacrificing bright white teeth due to its ability to stain. Here's what dentists recommend to prevent coffee from staining your smile.
Video of the Day
Why Coffee Stains Your Teeth
The downside of its caffeinated (or decaf) goodness is the teeth staining it can cause. As it turns out, anything that can stain your clothes can also stain your teeth, according to Jennifer Osei-Fosu, DDS, and spokesperson for Pronamel.
"Coffee is no exception because it contains the ingredient tannin, which can cause color compounds to stick to your teeth," Dr. Osei-Fosu says. Tannins are natural chemical compounds also found in wine and tea, two other beverages with high staining power.
"Tannins stick to your dental enamel, the outside protective layer of your teeth," says Tina Saw, DDS. "Staining will always occur, but there are ways to minimize staining."
How to Prevent Coffee From Staining Your Teeth
1. Limit Your Servings
If giving up coffee is not an option, you can still reduce staining by limiting how much coffee you drink. "Drinking no more than 2 cups of coffee per day can limit staining," Dr. Osei-Fosu says.
Dr. Saw says the timing of your coffee beverage should also be considered. "Drink your coffee all at once. Don't sip it throughout the day." This keeps opportunities for staining at a minimum.
So yes, you can still enjoy coffee in moderation and maintain a clean, white and healthy mouth, Dr. Osei-Fosu says.
2. Use a Straw
How you drink your coffee can also affect staining. According to Dr. Saw, drinking straight from your coffee mug increases the number of times coffee touches your teeth, causing discoloration.
Instead, she suggests always using a straw to sip — no matter if the coffee is hot or iced — to protect your teeth.
"Drinking coffee through a straw is one of the biggest ways to minimize teeth staining," Dr. Saw says.
3. Add Milk to Your Coffee
Black coffee has strong staining power. Its natural dark brown color will inevitably leave a mark on whatever surface it comes in contact with. But you can reduce its staining potential by adding milk or cream to lighten the color.
Using a splash of milk can dilute the acidic staining properties in coffee, making it less harsh on your teeth. Any source of milk or cream will do — dairy or dairy-free (that's good news for you, oat milk lovers).
4. Wait 30 Minutes to Brush
You may think brushing your teeth immediately after a cup of coffee is the right thing to do, but it's actually better to wait.
"As a dentist, I recommend brushing your teeth 30 minutes after drinking coffee," Dr. Saw says. "Coffee can be acidic, and brushing immediately can actually break down your enamel. You want to give your saliva some time to protect and coat your teeth from the acid attack. Plus, brushing later can help remove any dark stains before they set in."
5. Use an Electric Toothbrush
Ditch the traditional, manual toothbrush and give yourself an electric upgrade. Dr. Saw says an electric toothbrush is more effective to help keep your teeth white and remove stains. Remember, you don't want to brush immediately after you drink coffee.
"Use an electric toothbrush that oscillates, or spins," Dr. Saw says. "This mimics the movement of the instrument your dental professional uses to polish your teeth."
Electric toothbrushes do a better job of removing surface stains and plaque between the teeth compared to regular toothbrushes, he says.
6. Drink Water After Your Coffee
After enjoying your coffee, it's best to wash it down with water. Dr. Osei-Fosu explains that having water after any staining beverage prevents the staining of your enamel.
"It helps to drink a glass of water after finishing your coffee to rinse your teeth and mouth," Dr. Osei-Fosu says. This gives your teeth a quick rinse before you brush after waiting 30 minutes post-coffee.
7. Floss Every Day
If you aren't already in the habit of flossing daily, you should start ASAP. Dr. Saw encourages flossing every day as another stain-prevention strategy.
Flossing can prevent food and drinks from staining by removing any plaque building up between your teeth. This eliminates potential areas for coffee staining.
8. Practice Good Oral Hygiene
Ultimately what will keep stains off of your teeth is consistent proper oral hygiene. The American Dental Association suggests brushing your teeth twice a day for 2 minutes each time with fluoride toothpaste, according to the Mayo Clinic.
"Have a professional dental cleaning and check-up at least two times a year, and consult with your dentist about creating a personalized routine that meets your needs," Dr. Osei-Fosu says.
Dr. Osei-Fosu and Dr. Saw have these additional healthy teeth tips:
- Drink water after meals to rinse your mouth and teeth.
- Get professional whitening at least every other year.
- Use a whitening toothpaste at night and floss daily.
When to See a Dentist About Coffee Stains
If you notice stains on your teeth that just aren't going away, it may be time to get professional help from a dentist.
"The best way to remove current staining is seeing your dentist or dental hygienist," Dr. Saw says. "A dental professional can clean your teeth and even reach below the gum level to remove any plaque and tartar. Dental professionals utilize instruments that can vibrate tartar attached to your teeth, and then use a special rotating cup that will help remove and polish off stains.."
In addition to a professional dental cleaning, stains can also be removed with whitening toothpaste or professional whitening treatments. "You may need more than one treatment to completely remove stains from your teeth," Dr. Osei-Fosu says.
"Thankfully, with effort, coffee stains can be removed from teeth and some changes to your coffee routine can help prevent future staining."